The ‘Gateway Drug’ is Alcohol, Not Marijuana

Did you know that marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug? In the U.S, it is the 3rd most popular recreational drug, behind tobacco and alcohol.

As estimates show, more than 24 million people have used marijuana at a certain point, and around 14 million use it on a regular basis.  Still, misinformation regarding marijuana and its effects are prevalent.

Are you familiar with the term “gateway drug?” It is used to describe a drug, such as marijuana, whose use is thought to lead to the use of a harder drug, such as cocaine.  Interestingly, recent research done by a team of researchers at the University of Florida have found that the theory behind “gateway drug” isn’t associated with marijuana, but to alcohol instead.

The Guttman scale revealed that alcohol is the real a “gateway drug,” leading to use and dependence of marijuana, tobacco, and other illegal substances.  Students who consumed alcohol regularly were at an increased risk of using both legal and illegal drugs.

The study was done in order to add more detail to some of the previous researches on the topic. The latest form of this theory is that it all begins with cannabis and moves on to ‘harder drugs.’  The truth is that it follows a progression from legal substances, specifically alcohol, and it moves on to illegal substances.

The study analyzed data collected from 14,577 high school seniors from 120 public and private schools in the U. S. For the aim of the study, the team of researchers compared the substance abuse rates between non-drinkers and drinkers. They found that seniors in high school who have consumed alcohol at least once in their lives were 13 times more likely to smoke cigarettes, 16 times more likely to use marijuana and other narcotics, and 13 times more likely to use cocaine.

In the samples, alcohol was the most commonly used substance and around 72% of the students admitted consuming it at some point.  As for other substances, 45% admitted smoking cigarettes and 43.3% admitted using marijuana.

As concluded by the authors of the study, alcohol should receive primary attention in school-based substance abuse prevention programming because it definitely increases the risk of using other substances.

According to Dr. Karen Van Gundy, an associate professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, whether marijuana smokers move on to use of other illegal drugs is more affected by social factors like stress and unemployment, not whether they smoked a joint in the eighth grade.

He claims that marijuana is not the most common or first illegal drug used, because underage alcohol use and smoking usually precede marijuana use.